Jim Guthrie

Sword & Sworcery

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Video game soundtracks still have a strange stigma attached to them in some corners, but when you consider that at least two Oscar winners for best score, Trent Reznor and Howard Shore, have also created music for games in their careers, it's clear that enough said corners are small, dusty, and disappearing fast. Jim Guthrie doesn't have one of those golden statues himself yet, but his compositions for the game Sword and Sworcery, first released as a shorter collection and later with bonus tracks, are a series of brief, engaging efforts that capture a fun balance between playful giddiness and sweeping drama. Guthrie is no innovator as such; even if the music was released as a separate effort, Sword and Sworcery shows he adheres closely to the idea of short pieces for game play, with plenty of nods to past creators of soundtrack art. But "Doom Sock," for instance, is a great, fun title no matter the source, and the combination of demi-organ melodrama and steady, distant rhythm echoes are a gentle delight. The soft tones of "The Cloud" conjure up an appropriately dreamy atmosphere, with distant niggling beats and echoes adding depth before the strings suddenly rise in volume for an abrupt ending. Other numbers on the more whimsical side include "The Ballad of the Space Babies," with soft, cooing sounds and quiet piano floating amid a steady rhythmic tone. More than once there's a distinct feeling that the Flaming Lips are the reason this album exists, specifically the 21st century version of the band with its grand, happy pomp and circumstance (the song title "Unknowable Geometry" could almost be something from Wayne Coyne's head), but it's all handled with good grace, and like any soundtrack at its best, it makes one wonder what the game it's based on is like.